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Some Houston hospitals see decrease in ER visits amid COVID-19 crisis

HOUSTON – The nurses, doctors and staff of Houston hospitals were prepared to work extra days and long hours headed into the coronavirus outbreak but when the majority of surgeries stopped because of government restrictions, the hospitals' intensive care units stayed at a manageable level.

Across the Texas Medical Center, 18% of all ICU beds are being used by COVID-19 patients and 43% from non-COVID-19 patients. A total of 39% of beds are unoccupied.

While they are still waiting to see a possible surge in cases, Houston Methodist Hospital said they're down 75% in the emergency room department.

That could be a good thing because it could mean patients are staying home and not getting hurt but William Zoghbi, MD, Chief of Cardiology, Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart and Vascular Center said heart attacks don’t stop.

“Many of these patients are either downplaying or ignoring some of the symptoms that could be very important," Zoghbi said.

He fears patients are simply enduring pains that should be seen by emergency room doctors.

“Hospitals are very well equipped in separating patients with suspected COVID versus the other emergencies that we have dealt with,” Zoghbi said.

Even the CDC is reporting flu data comparisons from 2019 to 2020 should be interpreted with caution because they say people staying home during this pandemic are prohibiting them from keeping an accurate count of flu cases. Meaning, we may never know how many people really have the flu this year.

On the other hand, Shane Magee, MD, from Kelsey-Seybold Clinic said flu cases are simply down this year. He said it’s proof social distancing works to keep viral infections down.

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